South African Cultural Observatory

SACO 2 and the value of sustainability

BY Sino Falakahla 25.10.18

The second iteration of the South African Cultural Observatory (SACO) was launched at Rhodes University on 10 October 2018, indicating the sustainability of inter-university projects.

 The SACO is a national research centre that was established in 2015, mandated and funded by the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) to conduct research across the arts, culture and heritage (ACH) sectors and cultural and creative industries (CCIs).

SACO supports the collection and analysis of data, influences policy, shares insights and builds intellectual capacity with a special focus on how the sectors and industries can be leveraged to facilitate social cohesion, job creation and economic growth.

Present at the launch were representatives of SACO, including its Executive Director Ms Unathi Lutshaba, Chief Research Strategist and Rhodes University Economics and Economic History Professor Jen Snowball and SACO Academic Director, Professor Richard Haines. They were joined by Rhodes University Dean of Commerce Professor Dave Sewry, who welcomed the audience.

“The word ‘launching’ has all the connotations of something new, but we are, in fact, launching the continual existence of businesses and entities. It is a time of affirming not only our participation in the SACO but our enthusiasm and interest in contributing meaningfully to a better understanding and development of the cultural economy,” said Prof Sewry.

He added that “many hands make light work, so let’s gather many minds to make the cultural economy work”. SACO believes in the power of collective thinking and contribution within society.

Led by Nelson Mandela University, the award of the tender represents a significant investment by the South African government into research on the cultural and creative economy. Involvement with SACO offers opportunities for funded research, conference presentations, publications and showcasing work on the Observatory’s website – this includes articles and papers written by students.

A five-year tender to run the SACO has been granted to a consortium of universities, including Rhodes University, Nelson Mandela University, University of Fort Hare and the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

The work done by SACO includes providing information, policy and relevant research on the cultural and creative sector in South Africa. This includes research on the types of jobs involved in the sector and challenges faced by producers of cultural goods and services – such as intellectual property issues.

Heritage conservation (tangible and intangible) is part of the work, as is cultural value and its impact on social cohesion.

With the second iteration of SACO launching at Rhodes University, links have been formed with the School of Journalism and Media Studies, the Department of Computer Sciences, the Geography Department and the Neil Aggett Labour Studies Unit (NALSU).

Ms Lutshaba said, “The sector contributes not just economic value, but social value as well. We have discovered that the cultural and creative industries appear to have a sizeable impact on the national economy and that every year the sector shows signs of growth – it continues to create employment.”

Prof Snowball closed the launch by highlighting what it means to be a part of SACO, and the project’s plan to receive funding for future research and researchers.

From Rhodes University: https://www.ru.ac.za/latestnews/title_206144_en.html

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